The Creativity Deficit: How brands are destined to lose out in their race for parity


You don’t have to look too far into the future to see a time when there is no remainder, where all your time and resource is spent on tech and platforms. So what happens then?

How’s your marketing budget looking? Going up or down? I thought so. Research from Gartner shows a 10% decrease in marketing budgets since a peak in 2016. Scary times, but at least it’s happening to everyone, right?

And how about your time - got enough time to sort it all out? Oh. Damn.

The situation reminds me of the old engineering saying; there’s fast, cheap and high quality – pick two. Given that reducing budgets and time are an unchangeable reality for most brand marketers, it looks like the quality is going to suffer.

How is everyone responding? Pumping more money into platforms, tech and data. Focusing on the WHEN and WHERE and reducing the budget and time spent on the WHY and WHAT. Sure, these techniques produce returns, but I think there’s a shortsightedness in their use - they’re also available to anyone with money, making it a sellers market. And what happens in a seller's market? Prices go up. So the proportion of budget on these techniques is likely to increase, and as we know your budgets are decreasing, this means the bit left over for the WHY and WHAT is decreasing exponentially – here at Firehaus we call this the CREATIVITY DEFICIT, and it’s getting smaller every day.

You don’t have to look too far into the future to see a time when there is no remainder, where all your time and resource is spent on tech and platforms. So what happens then? Simple – biggest budget wins. And where does this leave the average CMO? Spending their days wrangling with the CFO for more money to counter competitor spend. But on the same techniques and tools as the competitors. A race for parity amongst brands.

Traditional agencies are struggling to help. Since they’ve generally moved to charging for time rather than value - creativity has been commoditised regardless of the size of the challenge or power of the solution and has been cut into lengths of time so it can be managed, reported and analysed for cost and margin - not quality of output. So agencies are subject to the same engineering rules as above and have to service accounts on an ever decreasing base of both skill and people.

Ok, you think, let’s in-house. Without the agency profit margin you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck and you’ll keep control of your own data and platforms. Fair enough – that’ll work for a short time. But what happens when all your competitors in-house as well? You’re still in the race for parity and now you’re stuck with a workforce who only know how to do one thing – marketing operators not problem solvers.

More drastic action is needed. Brands need to break from the race to parity, first by making the most of what they’ve left over for creativity and problem solving, and then turning the tide and reversing the deficit. They need to deploy creativity to overcome their challenges, stop picking from a list of solutions and concentrate on solving the problem - your problems.

At Firehaus we believe that creativity, not budgets, fuels real competitive advantage. We can help you ignite the power of your brand and staff on solving your real challenges rather than acquiring ‘me too’ off-the-shelf products. If you’d like a fresh perspective, get in touch.

Nick Barthram